Last month, current university students and recent grads attended the Rubin’s first Museum Career Fair, where their pressing career questions were answered by staff members at diverse panel discussions. Did you miss the event? Check out the top eight tips for students interested in museum careers:
1. Get involved.
Volunteering or interning at a museum, gallery, or other cultural organization will help you build skills and experience, as well as find a role that appeals to you. Remember, finding out what you don’t want to do can be just as valuable as discovering your dream job.
If you have volunteered at an organization previously, stay in touch to see how you can stay involved. Invite an old colleague out to coffee and catch up; you never know when inspiration will strike.
3. Investigate Behind the Scenes.
It takes a village to make any organization come together. Curation and education jobs are in the public eye, but there are many opportunities behind the scenes. Look into vital, less-visible positions, including public programming, fundraising, finance, collections management, facility management, visitor experience, and many more. Additionally, more museum jobs are being created in the fields of evaluation (assessing who a museum’s audience is and what they’re interested in) and digital/social media.
4. There is no standard degree or career path.
Do you want to design exhibitions? How about conserving artworks or working with children? Museums employ staff with a variety of academic degrees, professional training, and work experience. If you have an idea of the type of job you want, read job descriptions and see what kind of educational and/or experiential requirements are essential. Keep in mind that not every position is the same; there will be a variety of standards and expectations.
5. Focus on your potential – not someone else’s.
Paychecks are important, but remember to apply to jobs that make sense for YOU. Are you applying for an organization you’d want to work for? Maybe the organization is a fit, but does the work you’d be doing there actually interest you? Could a less exciting job build skills that you could take to a higher position later? Consider positions that appeal to both your goals and your budget.
6. It’s about the people.
Your career is more than the sum of your day-to-day tasks. You will be spending 40 hours a week with your co-workers—sharing a common mission and being a part of a community is both important and inspiring.
7. Don’t give up.
So, you’ve sent out 45 cover letters and haven’t had a single interview. Send out the 46th. Sometimes you find a job or internship quickly, and sometimes it is a slog. If you feel stuck, take the time to reflect on what you can do to make yourself a more competitive candidate—revise your cover letter, volunteer to get more experience, reach out to a mentor or talk to a professor for fresh ideas.
8. Where can I look for opportunities?
While there are many places to look for networking, volunteering, and employment information, here are some of our favorites: New York Foundation for the Arts, Indeed, New York Museum Educators Roundtable, College Arts Association, ArtTable, American Alliance of Museums, and International Council of Museums. Also, always visit the individual website of any institution in which you are interested.
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